United Airlines believes the timing of the slots becoming available at Tokyo Haneda airport create a favourable advantage its bid to launch flights to Haneda from its San Francisco hub.

United is seeking one of the four available slots to launch Boeing 777-operated flights from its San Francisco hub to Haneda. The slots became available after the USA and Japan reached an open skies agreement in December of 2009.

United's Star Alliance partner Continental and its subsidiary Continental Micronesia are seeking slots to operate flights from Newark Liberty International and Guam to Haneda.

Oneworld carrier American has requested Haneda slots to operate flights from New York John F Kennedy airport and Los Angeles, and recently told US regulator its first preference was JFK.

Delta, which recently tried lure Japan Airlines away from Oneworld, has requested all four slots for service from Seattle, Detroit, Los Angeles and Honolulu. Hawaiian Airlines has asked for two slots to operate flights from Honolulu to Haneda.

During a 9 March presentation at the JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense conference United CFO Kathryn Mikells said the time restrictions of the Haneda slots put United in a "uniquely strong position".

"You can only operate from Haneda from 10pm [22:00] to 7am, and you can depart after midnight," she says.

Those time restrictions allow United to "get to the west coast around dinner time, and be able to connect to all of our domestic network locations".

In contrast, says Mikells, "if you don't have west coast hub, and you have an interior hub, what you're really going to end up with is not being able to connect online throughout your network domestically".

Summing up United's competitive advantage Mikells says: "So when we look at our network overall, our very strong west coast presence, as well as our very strong partner in Japan [All Nippon Airways], we think uniquely positions us for further potential in the Pacific through the open skies agreement."

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news